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The Jericho Wildlife Monitoring Station

Contributed by This Week In Palestine on 14.05.2006:

by: Palestine Wildlife Society

Palestine is considered one of the most important places for monitoring bird migration in the world. This is due to its geographical location on the western boundaries of the Asian continent directly on the south-eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea and on the eastern boundaries of Africa. This geographical location places Palestine at the juncture of the European, Asian, and African continents.

Hence, due to the significant importance of the area, which consists of varied forms of wildlife and a varied environment such that many species inhabit it or use it as a migratory route, it was necessary for the Palestine Wildlife Society (PWLS) to place the conservation and rehabilitation of the area on the top of its list of priorities, to attract wildlife back to the area. Hence the creation of the Jericho Wildlife Monitoring Station (JWMS).

Jericho is one of the oldest cities in the world, known for its historical, ecological and environmental importance. It does not only constitute part of the Great Rift Valley (lying 400 m. below the sea level) but it is also recognized as a bottleneck IBA based on IUCN and Birdlife International criteria. IBAs are sites of global biodiversity and conservation importance, chosen using internationally agreed upon objective, quantitative and scientifically defensible criteria. Jericho is recognized as a valuable or sensitive site for it is the flyway (it is estimated that around 500 million birds a year cross this region) for many birds such as the soaring migrants (birds that use a system of ascent on thermals of hot air, which rise from ground level and which have been heated by the sun, in order to gain the necessary lift and assist them to soar up to the desired altitude), as well as being exceptionally important for the habitats and ecosystems that it encompasses for the bird species dependant on them.

The JWMS encompasses an area of about 150 dunums (around 38 acres) surrounded by agricultural fields to the west and a natural landscape to the east that reaches to the banks of Jordan River. The site shares the same physical environment as that of Jericho city.

Geologically, alluvium and chalk formation cover most of the area adjacent to the Jordan River and which is associated with regosol and solonchak soil types that allow halophytic species such as the Tamarix to grow. Its relative distance from inhabited areas facilitates the abundance of some form of wild fauna and flora.

The area used to be a botanical garden under the supervision of the Palestinian Committee for the Promotion of Tourism in the Governorate of Jericho (CPTGJ) between 1997-2001 in cooperation with the Palestinian Environmental Authority funded by the Korean government, after the area came under full Palestinian control. Due to the significance of the area, PWLS, together with CPTGJ, will revitalize the area. The project will focus on supporting the conservation of biodiversity in the Jericho area, protecting the desert, promoting eco-tourism, and establishing a bird ringing station, an environmental education centre, and a wildlife rehabilitation centre. The benefits of the project are manifold. In addition to creating self-sustainable tourism enterprises, there are educational benefits for schoolchildren and teachers, nature and wildlife lovers, and birdwatchers, not to mention agricultural benefits arising from the placement of nest boxes for barn owls which help reduce the number of pests to a level at which it is not economically beneficial to use chemical agents that are harmful to the environment.

Imad Atrash

Palestine Wildlife Society


This Week in Palestine, March 2006

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